Author : Isla Kay
We still thought about it. Dreamt about it. The idea would never escape us. Even if we’d never lived it.
I had been folding Kyle’s socks when I started hearing newscasts from the telesurfaces in the kitchen. A man had been found. He’d been living in Tazmania. His mother had kept him a secret when she started to realize, for fear he’d be hounded. But he wanted to be known, so he’d left for Sydney to claim his immediate idol status. The only man.
Since contamination (all that estrogen to curb the population coming back to haunt us), fewer and fewer males had become able to reach adolescence, until there were none—not a single man left.
The man on the telesurfaces was tall and had a deep voice. If there was only to be one, he was a good one. I picked up the astracom to call Jada next door, but my shaking hands dropped it into the washtube where it was surely sucked into the spin cycle. A man. I couldn’t look away. If there was one, there could be others.
When Kyle came home from school, he didn’t say a word.
‘So you’ve heard?’ I asked him.
‘Duh,’ he replied, sitting at the counter for his snack.
Since the extinction, boy-husbands were appointed to all women. Usually the son of a neighbor, sometimes shipped from overseas. The boy-husbands would fulfill the former duties of men as best they could—yard work, repairs, lifting. It was the best arrangement, given the situation.
The boy-husbands weren’t happy about it either. They didn’t want mother-wives nagging them endlessly. They wanted to be out playing cyball. But it was their duty to at least try to fill the men’s shoes. They would even donate sperm, since sexual contact between mother-wives and boy-husbands was appropriately prohibited. They were children after all. Although sometimes, a woman did look for love in the wrong places. The boys were helpful in the face of hardship. Of course, often the women took on many of the men’s former duties. Boys could only do so much.
‘You probably think you have a shot with this clown,’ Kyle said, finishing his grapejuice.
‘And I suppose you think you have a chance of…’ I stopped mid-sentence. ‘It’s possible,’ I decided, excited for Kyle. ‘I just hope they don’t lock him up in a lab to find out how he got this way.’
‘He’s probably a jerk,’ Kyle said, hopping down from the counter. ‘And if he isn’t now, he will be.’
Sometimes the boy-husbands thought of themselves as men, acted like men so convincingly that it made the women think twice, but usually, they stuck to what they were good at—being boys.
‘Can I go play outside?’ Kyle asked.
I messed up his hair and rubbed the back of his neck. ‘Of course, sweetie. Don’t forget your coat.’
Poor Kyle. He’d always wanted to be a good boy-husband, but he knew he would never be enough. ‘I scored eighty points yesterday,’ he beamed, putting on his hood.
I kissed his soft cheek. Boys and men—as different as men and women. ‘That’s amazing, honey. Be home before dark.’
Watching him run into the street, I wondered if he were a man, if I’d worry about him less or more.
More images of the man appeared through the frosted glass on the counter, the walls, the mirrors. I sat and stared, but the celebration quickly became sad. The only thing worse than not having something, knowing that it exists, but you will still probably never have it.
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